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Better Business Bureau: Beware of unscrupulous scammers when shopping

MADISON – The 2021 Christmas shopping season promises to be an unpredictable one. Labor shortages and problems with the supply chain are negatively affecting searches for sought-after gifts, according to the Better Business Bureau.

Electronics and toys are among the products in short supply. With product shortages and increased online shopping, purchase scams are likely to increase this season.

BBB recommends several tips to “Shop Safe, Shop Smart”:

* Lookalike websites – When stores sell out, shoppers may resort to items online on different websites than the official retailer. Dishonest sellers can mimic real websites, take the buyer’s money but never deliver any merchandise.

* Social media gift exchange – The gimmick to buy one gift and then receive multiple pieces of merchandise may sound tempting, but this seasonal scam is actually a pyramid scheme, which is illegal.

* Temporary holiday jobs – Retailers and delivery services need extra help during the holidays, but beware of companies that require details online or paying for a job lead. Apply in person or go to the retailer’s website to see if the business is hiring.

* Free gift cards – As tempting as it sounds, pop-up ads or email messages that offer free gift cards usually are a ploy to get personal information. Later, that data can result in identity theft.

* E-cards – Electronic cards can be fun but be careful. Two red flags: the sender’s name is not obvious, and additional information is required to receive the card.

* Fake shipping notifications – Email messages can have attachments or links to sites that will download malware, which can steal identity sources and passwords. Beware the holiday phishing scams.

* Phony charities – With most people in a generous mood during the holidays, scammers take advantage with fake charity solicitations in email, on social media and even by text. To confirm a charity, visit give.org.

* Odd payments – Be wary of any who asks to pay for holiday purchases with prepaid debit cards, gift cards, wire transfers or by third parties. You cannot trace or undo these payments.

* Travel scams – Bargains may be tempting, but be careful when booking by online ads. Never wire money to any individual or business that you don’t know. Ask for references.

* Puppy scams – Buying pets online can be a mistake. The buyer can receive a dog with health problems that was raised in a puppy mill. Sometimes, the buyer never receives the pet. Consider adopting an animal from a shelter.

For more information, visit bbb.org.

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